north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Black Mountain College was established in 1933 by a group of Rollins College faculty, disgruntled over the firing of Professor John Andrews Rice by the college president. Led by Josef Albers, the Black Mountain faculty included several scholars forced to leave Europe during the 1930s. The new school was incorporated on August 19, 1933, and, according to the first catalog, was founded “in order to provide a place where free use might be made of tested and proved methods of education and new methods tried in a purely experimental spirit. . .”

     The institution was unconventional by almost every standard. As an experimental college that served as an alternative to traditional education, it was one of the first schools in the nation to create an educational plan embodying the principles of progressive education. There was even an attempt to implement an organization plan giving the faculty full legal control of the school. One of the major tenets of the school’s plan was to elevate the fine arts to full curricular status.

     Owing partly to the imbalance between the arts and sciences, Black Mountain College was never accredited. Still many of its graduates enjoyed successful careers in the fine arts, education, and letters. Among the artists who were either students or faculty were: in architecture, Buckminster Fuller and Walter Gropius; in art, Josef Albers, Willem DeKooning, Robert Motherwell, and Robert Rauschenberg; in dance, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor; in music, John Cage; in film, Arthur Penn; and in literature, Eric Bentley, Robert Creeley, Paul Goodman, Alfred Kazin, Charles Olson, Joel Oppenheimer, and Jonathan Williams.

     In 1941 the school moved from the Blue Ridge Assembly grounds to a large Internationalist-style building designed by faculty member W. Lawrence Kocher. Following World War II, Black Mountain College fell into a period of decline; it ceased operation in 1956. The school received renewed attention with the publication of Martin Duberman’s study in 1972.

Martin Duberman, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community (1972)
Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain College (1987)
Charles M. Garren, “The Education Program at Black Mountain College, 1933-1943” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1980)
Black Mountain College catalog, 1933-34
Black Mountain College Collection, North Carolina State Archives
Doug Swaim, Cabins and Castles: The History and Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina (1981)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

Dining Hall at Lake Eden Campus of Black Mountain College

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources